Trip Itineraries

How to Spend a Weekend in Seattle

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If you’re considering how to spend a weekend in Seattle, you’re in for a real treat! The Emerald City has just the right mix of culture, art, whimsical and grunge for you to put together a perfect weekend itinerary.

I’ve included many of the main Seattle attractions as well as some ideas you might not have thought of. There’s plenty here to fill at least a 3 day Seattle itinerary, but you can easily spend a week exploring Seattle and not see it all. You’re in for a fun few days in Seattle!

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Table of Contents

Things to do in Seattle

I’ll start with a quick description of some of the highlights Seattle has to offer. These attractions are located in or near Downtown Seattle. If you’re looking for ideas on how to spend a day in Seattle, or a long weekend in Seattle, you can easily find them here.

Advice

Consider getting a Seattle CityPASS to not only save money, but also to save time by getting to skip the line at some of Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions.
Seattle CityPASS
from: Viator, A Tripadvisor Company

Pike Place Market: Home to a 9-acre, year round farmer’s market, iconic eateries and the Original Starbucks Cafe. Here you’ll find everything from fresh flowers to fresh seafood, well over 225 local artisans selling their goods, the famous fish-tossing tradition and plenty more.

➡️ A very popular tour you may want to consider is this Exclusive: Early-Access Food Tour of Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market in Seattle is a main attraction for visitors coming to the area.
Pike Place market is one of the most popular attractions for tourists in Seattle

Pacific Science Center: Although it hasn’t been updated lately, the PSC is a classic science museum that is worth the visit. The Tropical Butterfly house is a popular attraction for kids and adults alike. Seattle’s IMAX Theater is located here and has one of the largest screens in the state.

Space Needle: Arguably the most iconic structure in Seattle, the Space Museum is located in the Seattle Center. Don’t just stand at the bottom and look up though, take the 43-second elevator and check out the view from the top. If you time it right, you’ll get a stunning sunset view of the landscape and can even see Mt. Rainer in the distance.

Sunset from the Seattle Space Needle
Our view of the sunset from the Seattle Space Needle on our anniversary.

More things to do in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass: Located at the base of the Space Needle, this museum showcases the artwork of world-renowned glassblower Dale Chihuly. Ever been to Vegas and admired the glass sculptures in the lobby at the Bellagio? This is the same sculptor that does those amazing designs.

Olympic Sculpture Park: This outdoor extension of the Seattle Art Museum is open to the public for free. Even if you don’t have SAM on your Seattle weekend itinerary, you can squeeze in a bit of art by visiting this nine-acre sculpture park. It’s also Seattle’s largest downtown green space.

Gas Works Park: a 19 acre public park on the North Shore of Lake Union that offers gorgeous panoramic views of the Seattle skyline. What used to be the site of a gas light company is now a recreational complex that’s very popular in the city. You’ll find plenty to do there, including kayaking, sailing, and bicycling. Be sure to pack a picnic and enjoy your time here!

Seattle Aquarium: Located on Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront, the Aquarium has interactive exhibits that get great reviews by visitors. Although small enough you can see most of it in around an hour, it’s worth considering for your itinerary. This is a great place to visit if you’re traveling with kids.

Get Your Guide has quite a few tours available that can take the stress out of planning all of it yourself. Click on any of the tours below and see what else they have to offer in Seattle.

Even more things to do in Seattle

Miner’s Landing at Pier 57 & the Great Wheel: This little area is a great way to spend an afternoon checking out the cool shops. You can also visit Wings Over Washington and ride Seattle’s Great Wheel. Our favorite itinerary is to plan on seeing the sunset from the top of the Space Needle. Then, come here for dinner (the Crab Pot is always fun) and ride the wheel when it’s all lit up for the night!

Mariner’s/Seahawks Game: Catch a Seattle Mariner’s baseball game at T-Mobile Park (formerly known as Safeco Field) or the 2014 Super Bowl Champs Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field.

Catch a football or baseball game while on vacation in Seattle
Both of Seattle’s main stadiums are located in the downtown area.

Woodland Park Zoo: Plan at least 3-4 hours to explore the animal exhibits. This zoo covers 92 acres and cares for 1000 animals. The city bus has a stop right at the zoo making it even easier to add to your agenda. If you’re visiting Seattle during Christmas time, plan your visit so you’re there in the evening for their amazing light display!

Seattle Art Museum: Art lovers will enjoy spending time here and should plan at least a few hours to see the different exhibits. The Monet exhibit is extra, but a favorite of most visitors. If you’re in town on the first Thursday of the month, admission is free.

Related topic: The Ultimate Seattle Packing List: 28 Essentials You Need

Breakdown of Seattle Neighborhoods

Understanding where most of the iconic attractions are located will help you decide how to check things off your Seattle bucket list. Here are the most popular neighborhoods in Seattle you’ll want to know about.

Downtown Seattle: This is where you’ll find Pike Place Market, Seattle Art Museum, and a number of hotels among the skyscrapers and businesses that make up the heart of Seattle. It’s also the catch-all phrase used to describe the location of most of Seattle’s iconic attractions. All of the neighborhoods below are in the general vicinity or near Downtown Seattle.

Pioneer Square: Seattle’s oldest bar, food trucks a’plenty at Occidental Square, the Underground Tour, art galleries, coffee shops and Seattle Convention Center.

Queen Anne: Space Needle, Seattle Center, Pacific Science Center & Imax, Chihuly Garden & Glass and the Museum of Pop Culture

Seattle Waterfront: Seattle Aquarium, Fisherman’s Wharf, Seattle Great Wheel, Olympic Sculpture Park, Piers for most boat tours, cruises and ferries

Visting Pier 67 and riding Seattle's Great Wheel is a great way to spend a weekend in Seattle on vacation
Visiting Pier 67 and riding Seattle’s Great Wheel is a great way to spend an evening in Seattle on vacation

More Seattle Neighborhoods

Freemont: Gas Works Park, Woodland Park Zoo, Freemont Troll, Theo Chocolate. There’s also a European-style street market every Sunday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Capital Hill: Here you’ll find the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Volunteer park, Seattle Asian Art Museum and more. You’ll also find a vibrant night life among the bars and hangouts if that’s what you’re looking for.

Seattle’s Chinatown-International District (CID): Asian supermarkets, art galleries, museums and shopping. Also home to several popular, cultural festivals throughout the year.

Another popular tour is the Chinatown to Pike Place Market you can book here. ⬇️

Chinatown To Pike Place Market Tour In Seattle
from: Viator, A Tripadvisor Company

Things to do near Seattle, Washington

If you want to look a little further than the Downtown area, Washington is chock-full of adventures to be had. I’m not sure you could ever visit enough to be bored here! Here are a few more ideas of what to do on a long weekend trip to Seattle for you to look into.

Ballard Locks: The locks link the Puget Sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington and are one of Seattle’s most popular tourist attractions. Also home to the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden and a visitor’s center with interpretive exhibits and a gift shop.

Stephen's Pass Ski Resort: Located at the crest of Stephens Pass in the Cascade Mountains, the ski season typically runs from mid November through late March. There's no overnight lodging here, so consider making reservations in nearby Leavenworth for a unique way to spend the weekend.

Bainbridge Island: A short, 35 minute ferry ride connects Seattle to Bainbridge Island where you can easily spend a day enjoying shops, museums and plenty of local dining. The Bainbridge Island Farmers Market runs Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm, April 6 to December 14.

If you're wondering how to spend a weekend in Seattle, consider taking a ferry to a nearby island for the day
Take a ferry to one of Seattle's nearby islands for a fun day trip!

Alki Beach: A quick ferry ride across Elliott Bay on the West Seattle Water Taxi brings you to this sandy stretch of beach. Alki is a great place to spend the day and for viewing the Olympic mountains to the west and the Seattle skyline to the east.

Snoqualmie Falls: Take the 1.6 mile hike to the base of the falls for a stunning view of Mother Nature in action. Stay overnight at Salish Lodge, get an ice cream cone at Snoqualmie Falls Candy Factory and ride the train at the Northwest Railway Museum.

Best Seattle Tours

Although there are plenty of free things to do in Seattle, there are plenty of things worth paying for, too. When you're planning what to do on a long weekend in Seattle, you might want to fit in a guided tour or two in your agenda.

Here are some of the most popular Seattle tours you can book:

Whale Watching: The best time to see whales is May - October.

Seattle Underground

Museum of Flight

Seattle Harbor Cruise

Starbucks Reserve Roastary & Tasting Room

3 Hour Seattle City Tour

Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center

How to spend a weekend in Seattle with day trips

What are great day or weekend trips near Seattle?

One of the best things about visiting Seattle is the proximity to a variety of cool things to do. There aren't many places you can spend a day in the mountains and be sitting on the beach by sunset!

There are so many towns in the Pacific Northwest that are worth spending a day exploring! Here are some destinations that deserve to be high on your list. You can also book a guided tour to take you there.

Mount Rainer: Located about a two hour drive from downtown Seattle, there are plenty of ways to spend your time here. You can plan to hike some of the beautiful trails in Rainier National Park or take a ride on the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad. A guided tour is also a smart option and as long as the whether cooperates you'll be in for quite a treat!


Mt. Rainier Day Tour from Seattle

from: Viator, A Tripadvisor Company

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival: If you're visiting Seattle in April, you really need to consider adding this amazing flower festival to your itinerary. Over one million visitors each year visit the tulip fields and you won't be disappointed!


Skagit Valley Tulip Festival Tour with Local Wine & Cheese from Seattle

from: Viator, A Tripadvisor Company

More of the best day trips from Seattle

Leavenworth: This Bavarian-themed German village is worth visiting any time of the year. You can come for their annual Oktoberfest in the fall. Many people come to feed the reindeer and see the Christmas Lighting ceremony in December. The beautiful wildflowers in the spring are also quite an attraction. Whenever you come, Leavenworth is worth a day trip when visiting Seattle.


Leavenworth Day Trip from Seattle through the Cascade Mountains

from: Viator, A Tripadvisor Company

Snoqualmie Falls: If visiting a beautiful (and world famous) 270 foot waterfall sounds like a great way to spend your day, head 30 miles east of Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls. Whether you choose to take a tour or go on your own, this scenic outing is a popular choice for over 1.5 million visitors each year.


Woodinville Wine & Snoqualmie Falls: All-Inclusive Small-Group Tour from Seattle

from: Viator, A Tripadvisor Company

What airports are near Seattle?

Seattle Tacoma International Airport, better known as Sea-Tac, is the main airport most folks fly in and out of. It's located about 15 miles south of the downtown area.

Paine Field is also a nice option, but smaller and doesn't have as many flights available. It's located about 23 miles north of the downtown area.

Is public transportation available in Seattle?

Yes, you may be able to plan your entire stay using only transportation. Consider using the Link Light Rail, Sounder Train, Seattle Streetcar, Seattle Center Monorail, and the city bus. You can find information on all of those here.

Where's the best place to rent a car near Seattle airport?

If you're flying into Seattle and plan to rent a car for your road trip to Seattle, head to the baggage claim level & exit either door 2 or 15. The airport shuttle bus runs every 5 minutes. It will take you to the rental car facility about two miles away.

Best car rental prices - Guaranteed. RentalCars.com

Related topic: The Ultimate Seattle Packing List: 28 Essentials You Need

Where to stay on vacation in Seattle

If your plan is to stay right in the heart of Seattle, there are plenty of hotels to choose from. Staypineapple: The Maxwell Hotel gets great reviews for families and is definitely worth checking out.

Staypineapple, The Maxwell Hotel, Seattle Center Seattle
Staypineapple, The Maxwell Hotel, Seattle Center Seattle

If you're looking for the best luxury hotel in Seattle, your best choices are the Four Seasons, The Fairmont Olympic Hotel or the Westin Hotel.

For mid-range, family friendly hotels in Seattle, check out the Crowne Plaza Hotel, the Paramount Hotel or the Hyatt Regency.

Vacationing on a budget? Here are some options for budget friendly hotels in Seattle: Travelodge by Wyndham or the Ace Hotel. (Tip: You'll find more (and probably better) options if you stay further away from the downtown area.)

Advice

➡️ Definitely check out the Staypineapple, as it looks like the best option for both a family friendly and a budget friendly hotel in Seattle.

What's the best time to visit Seattle?

Seattle has a reputation for being rainy all the time, but that's not actually true. Summers are an absolute delight in the Pacific Northwest! If weather is a concern, your best bet is to plan your trip to Seattle in July or August. However, that's high tourist season and rates for flights and hotels will be higher.

September is your best best for both great weather and fewer crowds. Early October can also be nice, but you'll usually have some rainy days by the end of the month. If you have at least 3 days in Seattle, chances are you'll have good weather for most of it during these times.

How many days in Seattle?

If all you have is a long weekend in Seattle, then go for it and plan a 2 day itinerary seeing the iconic sites in downtown Seattle. You can use public transportation to get you to the area and spend all your time there, especially if this is your first time in Seattle.

If you're planning a 3 day Seattle itinerary, you'll have time to hit the high points and work in a few tours. Consider buying a Seattle CityPass to save yourself some time and money. If your goal is 3 days in Washington State, but not necessarily Seattle, then definitely consider visiting places like Mount Rainier National Park or Skagit Valley Tulip Fields if you come in April.

Seattle is a beautiful city and as you plan how to spend a weekend in Seattle, I think you'll find you're in for a real treat! Is there something you would add to this list? Leave a comment and let us know!

Hearts & Hugs,
Karee

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I’m Karee—traveling and travel planning make my heart sing! Thanks for coming along for the ride with me here at OWJ. I’ll be sharing valuable info on how to travel like a Queen without a Royal Budget, how to take amazing trips using points and miles, and plenty more!

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